PEEK

Are FLDS Women Brainwashed?

What drives a woman to submit to a fundamentalist Mormon cult?
I've spent the day wrangling with a post (which will probably turn into several posts) about the FLDS raid in Eldorado, TX. Oddly, last week's events occured while I had my nose buried in the best new book on the subject of the FLDS since Jon Krakauer's bestselling Under the Banner of Heaven came out in 2003, so I've got a lot of fresh and deep perspective on the matter -- too much, in fact, to be wrestled down into one coherent post.

Over dinner, I'd just about decided that the only way to deal with the overload was to chip away at the story in short blats over the next few days, which will attempt to put some new context to these events. And then I got an e-mail from Pastor Dan Schultz of Street Prophets, containing ample proof of just how badly that context is needed now that the media talking heads are all holding forth on this story.

Dan pointed me to the second most inane thing ABC News has produced today (the first, of course, being Charlie Gibson's and George Stephanopoulos' performance at the Pennsylvania debates) -- an odd little story by Emily Friedman asking "experts" whether or not FLDS wives are "brainwashed."
Between hysterical sobs, the women of the Yearning for Zion Ranch in rural Texas tearily pleaded Monday for the return of their children from state custody, but at the mere turn of a phrase, those tears mysteriously, uniformly stopped.
When conversations with reporters shifted away from the 416 children in state custody toward touchier subjects surrounding the mysterious religious sect, the overflowing emotions were quickly replaced with blank stares and terse replies.
Clad in conservative prairie dresses, hair back in buns and tight braids, the women stuck to monotone, emotionless responses in declining to answer reporters' questions concerning allegations of plural marriages and sexual assault within the sect.
Asked whether 14- and 15-year-old girls get married on the compound, a tight-lipped woman who would only give her first name, Marilyn, gave what appeared to be a rehearsed response.
"We are talking about our children now," she said, shaking her head, unwilling to stray from the subject of her children.
The shift to blank-faced denial was jarring in both its immediacy and consistency. Not a single one strayed from the script, an impressive display of solidarity, if a bit peculiar to the outsiders granted unprecedented access to the members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Sara Robinson blogs at Orcinus.